Fuel Smarts

DOT Revises Drug & Alcohol Test Rules

December 14, 2000

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued new rules for drug and alcohol testing, which it says will help deter cheating.
Citing an increase in the number of specimens that are adulterated or substituted, DOT had wanted mandatory “validity” testing of all samples. For now, validity testing remains voluntary for employers, but the Department of Health and Human Services, which regulates drug-testing laboratories, is working on standardized test procedures.
Once those are finalized, DOT will make validity testing mandatory.
A specimen found to be tampered with is treated as a refusal to test, thus DOT has added steps to protect workers from lab errors. Starting in mid February 2001, medical review officers will review the test results when a laboratory indicates that a specimen may have been adulterated or substituted. The employee also will be able to obtain a second test at a different lab using the already required split specimen.
Another significant change: Under current rules, employers aren’t notified of a positive test until it has been verified by the medical review officer. The new rules allow employers to apply for waivers that will let them temporarily remove employees from safety-related jobs while the MRO decides if there may be a medical explanation for the positive reading. DOT didn’t give details, but said they have built in measures to protect employee confidentiality and allow employees to be paid while awaiting the MRO’s decision. Those rules become effective August 1, 2001.
DOT has adopted new training requirements for drug and alcohol test personnel as well as a "public interest exclusion" procedure to prohibit employers from using third party drug and alcohol testing companies that don’t provide appropriate services and refuse to correct identified problems.
The new rules will be published in the January 19, 2001, Federal Register available on the Internet at www.nara.gov/fedreg.

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